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Why Poodles Shake


Shaking, with our without other symptoms, is not uncommon with the Poodle breed, though there are a variety of reasons why this may happen and some of them depend on the variety of Poodle: Toy, Mini or Standard. It may come and go, happen at only certain times of the day or be a chronic, ongoing issue. 
This section is going to discuss all of the possible reasons why a Poodle shakes, including:
  • The clinical signs of shaking
  • When this happens along with other symptoms including vomiting, panting or whining
  • When the shaking is limited only to the head area
  • Shaking issues with full white coated Poodles
  • Steps you can take to help stop this from happening
  • Red flag signs of emergency situations
So, let's dive in to find out why a Poodle may shake. Many of the reasons for this can be resolved right away with at-home treatment and remedies.

The Clinical Signs of Shaking and What Means

Many owners wonder if shaking is the muscles or the nerves. The answer is that technically, shaking is involuntary, rapid movements of the muscles called oscillations. However, in some cases when nerves are stimulated in a certain way or damaged, they may cause the muscle fibers to react in this way.

Terms such as tremors and shivering apply to certain types of shaking (more ahead). When a Poodle shakes, it may involve the entire body from the withers to the base of the tail, the legs from the thigh to the paws and sometimes just the head will have tremors.

Top 3 Reasons why a Poodle may Shake without Other Symptoms

Shaking with toy and small sized dogs is so common that many people believe it normal due to either a high energy reserve or some other issue mistakenly related to size. 

It is important to note that it is not normal for a Poodle to shiver; there is always an underlying reason that should be addressed. 

Shaking over a period of time can be stressful for a dogs and can really tire him/her out to the point of exhaustion.  The longer the root cause is not dealt with, the more anxiety and distress the dog will feel. 

#1 Being cold. This may seem like too obvious of an answer,  when a dog (and especially either a toy Poodle or a mini or standard puppy) starts to shake uncontrollably, this is the #1 reason.  It is also not uncommon for seniors to have sensitively to the cold.  Owners may not always automatically think about this, particularly if they themselves are feeling perfectly warm. 

There are 3 things to keep in mind:

1- Young dogs and senior dogs have a more difficult time regulating their internal body temperature.

2- Toy sized breeds will struggle more to stay warm than larger ones.

3- Unlike many other breeds, the Poodle doesn't have an exceptionally thick, dense coat and hair is traditionally thinner than fur. This leaves this breed more vulnerable to getting chilled.
How to Help

1- When indoors during cold weather, check your Poodle's normal resting areas for any drafts.
During the summer, check to see that your Poodle is not normally positioned where cool AC air will be focused directly onto him.  

2- It's recommended to keep the house between 68 and 72 F (20 and 22 C); however a Poodle may still get the chills. Canines in general have a body temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.6 C); though toy Poodles will have slightly lower temperatures and standard Poodles will have slightly higher.  And while the thermostat may say that it is 70; drafts can make corners much colder.  Be aware of cold floors, drafts from windows or in the summer, a Poodle being in the direct line of an AC flow.

3- If your Poodle is shaking without any other signs such as not eating, vomiting, heavy panting, etc. most likely he or she will benefit from added layered blankets in the resting/sleeping area and having a warm sweater placed on him during the day. When shivering is due to being cold, putting a layer of clothing on your Poodle can almost immediately fix the problem.

4- During the winter, you'll want to protect your Poodle when you take him outside. A waterproof coat or parka should be placed onto him if there is any precipitation including freezing rain, slush, sleet or wet snow since this, coupled with chilly temps, can cause a deep uncontrollable shivering that can take a long time to recover from. 

If it is below the freezing mark, a sweater, vest or cotton covering will help keep the Poodle's main body insulated. 
Poodle wearing warm shirt
Photo courtesy of owner: Dorothy Meneely
#2 Low Blood Sugar. This will most typically develop with toy Poodles between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks; thought it can happen to young pups of any variety and even older dogs if due to diabetes or other medical issues. Often referred to as hypoglycemia, this rapid drop in blood sugar levels can come on quickly. While many pups will only have visible shivering, some will shake and whine persistently.

Any event that causes added strain on the energy reserves of the liver can cause this to happen.

The most common triggers are:

• If the Poodle has not eaten
• If the puppy is under stress (often just being in the different environment of a new home can be stressful enough to cause this)

Other less common triggers include:

• Being cold
• Being overly tired due to too much exercise or play
• Having an upset stomach

Other signs of this include:

• Shaking may be over the entire body or may be limited to facial tremors
• Whining
• Weakness
• A staggered, wobbly gait
• Lack of coordination

If left untreated, worsening signs include:

• Fainting spells
• Vision abnormalities; blindness
• Seizures
• Eventual coma

How to Help 

1- The most important step you can take will be to quickly bring up blood sugar levels. This can be done by gently rubbing a dab of honey into the Poodle puppy's gums. If you do not have honey on hand you may encourage the drinking of a water/sugar blend or even offer crushed sugary children's cereal.

2- Improvement should be seen almost immediately. If shaking continue, if there are any other signs listed above that do not resolve or if new signs including vomiting or refusal to eat develop it will be important to bring the Poodle to the veterinarian or closest animal hospital right away. Moderate to severe cases of hypoglycemia must be treated with an IV solution and testing will be done to determine the underlying cause.
3- Since not eating on a regular basis can cause this to happen, be sure to have a feeding schedule that is followed each day. If a Poodle must be left home alone, leaving food as well as using treat-release toys can ensure that there is no lapse in food consumption. 
#3 Stress. Feeling anxious, nervous or stressed can cause a Poodle of any variety and any age to shake. There are some common triggers such as being in a new home, dealing with a sudden onslaught of new people or being put into a new situation or event that the dog is not socialized to.

With this said,  owners do not automatically notice that a dog is feeling emotional distress because certain events that we would not consider to be stressful can be very taxing to a dog. This can include over-excitement of greeting a favorite person (especially if the Poodle has been home alone), anticipating a meal (particularly if meal time is running late) or even in anticipation of being brought outside (often seen with Poodles that have a lot of pent-up energy that they have been holding in).

How to Help

1- If a Poodle puppy is shaking due to the stress of a new house, this should resolve on its own as the pup gets accumulated to his new environment. Be sure to have a comfortable area for the Poodle that includes a quality bed, enticing toys and 'cuddle items' such as stuffed dogs and a properly sized blanket. New puppies often need to be reminded where food and water is located.

2- If a Poodle shakes due to nervousness in regard to other people, other animals or new situations, this can often be resolved over time by removing the dog from the trigger and then offering a slow, gradual socialization. 

It can take a couple of months for a dog to learn how to handle various situations and events; in the meantime making sure your Poodle knows where to go to in order to retreat from overwhelming noises/commotion/foot traffic in the house is important. This should be a cozy corner of a room that offers peace but not in a place that is isolating. If a Poodle is stressed, being completely removed and alone only makes things worse.

3- If the shaking continues, you will want to have your Poodle evaluated for other possible causes.

Other Less Common Reasons for Shaking

If shaking continues and the above treatments do not resolve the issue, there are other less common medical issues to consider:

Generalized Tremor Syndrome - This is also called white shaker dog syndrome, since at one time it was only seen in pure white dogs. While this is now seen in dogs of all coat colors, though it is still more common with dogs of a light color color. This would include apricot, cream and beige Poodles among others.  With this condition, the only symptom is full body shaking.  Even so, it can be mistaken for other issues such as hypoglycemia or being chilled as mentioned above.

While a Poodle of any age can develop this, it most often strikes those between 9 months old and 2 years old. While the cause is unknown, it responds very well to prednisone treatment with improvement often seen within one week.

Illness - A range of diseases from distemper to liver disease can cause shaking. It should be noted that there will be a wide array of other symptoms including: changes in weight, changes in appetite, coughing, wheezing, weakness, fever, eye or nasal discharge, excessive sleeping, restlessness and many more. Chronic shaking that is not resolved by the above remedies of keeping the Poodle warm, treating for possible low blood sugar and limiting stress OR that is accompanied by any signs that may point to a health problem, disease or illness should be treated by a reputable veterinarian ASAP.

Seizures - While shaking is sometimes a symptom of seizures, there are very specific signs, depending on the severity of the seizure. The most common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy. This usually has 3 distinct phases:  Pre-ictal phase (includes whining, shaking, drooling and/or restlessness), Ictal phase (can be minor with blank staring or severe with full body spasms) and Post-ictal phase (includes confusion, pacing, vision problems and/or drooling)

Diagnosis includes ruling out poisoning, head trauma, liver disease, kidney disease and heart issues including heartworms. Spinal fluid may be check and CAT scans or MRI performed. This is treated with anticonvulsant medications; the most common being phenobarbital and potassium bromide.  

If a Poodle is Shaking His Head

There are 3 main reasons why dogs will shake just their heads:

1) The same reasons for full body shivering - Owners should first look to the 3 most common reasons for shaking (discussed above) which include being cold, having low blood sugar and feeling stressed. 

2) Ear issues including fleas, mites, ear infection and inflammation of the ear canal - In this case, a Poodle will voluntarily shake his head as if agitated. He may also rub his head against surfaces such as the wall or carpeting. Additionally, there may be pawing at the ears.

3) Idiopathic head tremors - With this, a Poodle will have clear head bobbing in a vertical 'yes' motion or a horizontal 'no' motion. Episodes come on without warning (meaning no other worrying signs), typically last 3 to 4 minutes and the dog is seemingly perfectly fine afterward.

While a Poodle of any age or variety may be affected by this, it most commonly strikes dogs that are 3 to 7 years old and is seen in both genders at the same rate.

The cause of this type of head shaking is unknown and is only diagnosed by ruling out other medical conditions. Many dogs can be 'snapped' out of an episode with a high sugar treat such as peanut butter or honey. Veterinarians find it helpful if owners can take a video of this happening to a dog as it is a very specific type of rhythmic movement. There is no current treatment, however so far studies show that this has no ill effects to dogs and distraction often works to stop an occurrence.

Red flag Signs of Emergency Situations

It's really important to go with your gut instinct any time that your Poodle begins to shake uncontrollably. 

If your Poodle is shivering due to the cold, this is easily fixed and trembling due to excitement should ebb down once the event is over. However, since there are so many possible serious medical conditions of why a Poodle may shake, that owners should not hesitate to seek in-person treatment at the veterinarian clinic or animal hospital. 

Signs that call for a professional evaluation include, but are not limited to:

• Heaving panting
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Panicked behavior
• Swollen abdomen
• Trouble breathing
• Weakness
• Signs of pain
• Altered behavior
• Persistent crying
• Changes in appetite
• Changes in drinking
• Pawing at the ears
• Restlessness
• Fever

Understandably many owners are hoping for quick, at-home remedies that will spare them a vet bill; however please remember that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Most health problems can be much more easily treated when caught in the beginning stages.
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